The Israel Tourism Ministry has begun its preparations for Pope Benedict XVI’s May visit to Israel.
In order to leverage the visit and promote Christian tourism to Israel, the Tourism Ministry held a conference this week with representatives of the tourism industry to discuss the required activities. Participants included, among others, incoming tour operators specializing in the Christian market, the Israel Hotel Association and representatives of the municipalities that will be included in the pope’s itinerary.
In addition, the ministry will invest 6 million shekels in renovations and preparations at Christian sites in Israel, including Qasr el-Yahud, the Good Samaritan site, the Cenacle (site of the Last Supper), the Jesus Trail and more. During the last decade, the ministry has invested tens of millions of shekels in developing sites including, among others, the Mount of Olives Promenade, Via Dolorosa and Christian trails in Jerusalem, Nazareth and around the Sea of Galilee.
Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila said:
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“The pope’s visit to the Holy Land is an important and very significant visit that represents a strategic anchor for pilgrimage tourism to Israel in the coming years. The atmosphere of understanding, reconciliation and peace between peoples and religions that the pope inspires will contribute to a strengthening of Israel’s image and encourage pilgrimages and tourism to Israel, especially in this period when the tourism industry is dealing with the ramifications of the global economic crisis.”
Three million tourists visited Israel in 2008, of whom 1 million were pilgrims (2 million Christians in all).
David Bedein can be reached at email@example.com